Article and photos by E. del Valle
The main building at La Residence
I had breakfast with Edward Morton, general manager of the hotel
I spent my final day in South Africa at La Residence, a serene, elegant and stylish farm estate in the village of Franschhoek, one of my preferred wine and gourmet areas of the country. The property and the setting were as pretty as I remembered from previous visits (see La Residence Hotel and Villas and La Residence).
Vineyard Suite 3 seen from the garden
I stayed in Vineyard Suite 3, a 40 square meter room with a private garden that faced the vineyards and mountain in the family section of the 30 acre estate with 85 employees. That part of the property, built in 2010, had five Family Suites. The farm grew grapes, olives, plums, quinces, black and green figs, pomegranates and lemons.
The interior of my room, Vineyard Suite 3
There was a bathtub in the center of the bathroom
The room, the smallest of the Family Suites, was lovingly decorated with fine fabrics, a large and beautiful fresh flower arrangement, original oil paintings, and comfortable and colorful furnishings. The four poster bed, with crisp white linen sheets embroidered with the brand initials and fluffy feather pillows, was so far off the ground there were three rung wood ladders on either side of the bed to climb up, not a favorite.
The hotel, situated in the middle of a vineyard, had pretty mountain views
Randall looked after me with warmth and attention to detail
A high ceiling and three chandeliers added to the sense of space. Throw rugs atop the stone flooring made it homey as did the ample closet space. The sunlit bathroom too was spacious and inviting, housing an oversize door-less shower, separate bathtub, a room for the toilet, and twin sinks, one on either side of the bathroom.
I especially enjoyed breakfast, a combination of a cold buffet, including skim and full cream milk, freshly harvested honey comb, seasonal fruit, locally sourced cheeses and homemade muesli, and made to order hot dishes. I also liked that staff were attentive and guest oriented. Randall, who looked after me, was friendly, helpful, and clearly knew the area well. He reconfirmed my airport transfer and my rental car pickup, and handled the check-in for my domestic flight with ease and efficiency.
I found chilled sparkling wine, fresh fruit, and flowers on arrival in my room
Liz Biden, co-owner and designer of La Residence, part of The Royal Portfolio
There were many complimentary amenities such as laundry, transfers within the village, a well stocked minibar, quality snacks and WiFi. Although I was able to go online, I was unable to send emails or connect to a VPN. There were some minor signs my room was due for a soft renovation. I appreciate the property’s elegant yet welcoming ambiance, farm setting with mountain views, comfortable and stylish decor, Villa Suites, and noteworthy service. La Residence (La Residence, Elandskloof Private Road, Elandskloof Farm, Franschhoek 7690, +27 21 876 4100, fax +27 21 876 2030, www.laresidence.co.za, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org), part of The Royal Portfolio owned by Liz and Phil Biden, remains among my favorite Franschhoek properties.
By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox
Dunedin mural on a wall
A skip and a jump (25 miles west) from Tampa, Florida we found Dunedin (Done-ee-den), a 28.2 square mile town with a population of just over 35,000 people. It had the unexpected small town feel of another place and time with unique shops and restaurants, picnic movies on the lawn on Friday nights, and a host of special events year round. The weekend we visited there were two street events, the American Classic Car Show Dunedin and Brewery Oktobeerfest.
The beginning of Main Street in Dunedin
The stage downtown hosted family movie night while we were there
The downtown core, half mile long, was six blocks of 15 restaurants and 53 shops on Main Street. The most salient feature on Main Street was the absence of block chain stores, restaurants and franchises. We stayed at the lovingly maintained Meranova Guest Inn and dined at The Black Pearl fine dining restaurant, both in the popular downtown section. Although 60 percent of the downtown buildings date back to circa 1900, construction peppered Main Street, promising fast approaching growth.
Decorated dolphins dotted Main Street
Bon Appetit restaurant faces the water at the end of main street
“Dunedin is very proud of the fact that 100 percent of the down town businesses are Mom and Pop owned,” said Bob Ironsmith, director, Economic and Housing Development, City of Dunedin. “This is the very reason that Dunedin maintains the quaint charming life style enjoyed by residents and guests.”
Once an hour boats ran from Honeymoon Island to Caladesi Island and back
A walkway to the beach
The beach in Caladesi State Park
More than half of the Pinellas County town, 17.8 square miles, is water and 10.4 square miles is land. Dunedin’s most celebrated ecotourism attractions were Caladesi Island State Park, a popular beach destination, and the undeveloped Honeymoon Island State Park, the state’s most visited park, offering bird watching, walking, biking and kayaking opportunities to residents and visitors. We visited both. It was necessary to take a boat from Honeymoon Island to Caladesi Island.
Inactive Osprey nests were visible all over Honeymoon Island
Peter H. Krulder, park manager, Honeymoon Island Administration, showed us around the island
Honeymoon Island averaged between 20 and 25 osprey nests and one eagle nest a year. Caladesi Island often had a few osprey nests and great horned owls a year. Domestic animals on a six foot hand held leash were welcome in the parks and only on one small section of the beach. They were not allowed in food service areas. Access to Caladesi Island was via two 45 foot long boats, one per hour, which took 20 minutes from Honeymoon Island to Caladesi Island.
We had lunch at the South Beach Pavilion Cafe on Honeymoon Island
The view from the pavilion
Honeymoon Island had four and a half miles of beach accessible to land visitors, 1,300 acres of uplands and 1,500 submerged acres. Caladesi Island had three miles of beach accessible to land visitors. Each island had hiking trails three mile long. It was no wonder the island parks were popular. More than one million people visit Honeymoon Island annually and 300,000 visit Caladesi Island. The parks are looked after by 12 fields staff and five administrative staff at Honeymoon Island plus five field staff at Caladesi Island.
We liked the fresh fish and a view of the ocean from the cafe
Although the surf was too choppy to swim it was fun walking around and exploring the long Caladesi Island beach. On our return from Caladesi Island a fresh fish lunch with a view of the beach on Honeymoon Island from the deck of the South Beach Pavilion Cafe (1 Causeway Boulevard, Dunedin, Florida 34698, https://www.romantichoneymoonisland.com/, +1 727 260-5503) was a treat. We enjoyed our visit to Dunedin (http://www.dunedingov.com) Main Street and both islands and would return for an event oriented or relaxing weekend getaway.